Senior NFL Columnist

Thanks to GM Reese, Giants deep enough to withstand almost anything


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The NFL is a coach-quarterback league for the most part, and the New York Giants have won two Super Bowls because of coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning.

But there is another huge reason why the these Giants are in a position to repeat as Super Bowl champions this season, already have two big rings for their fingers, and have the ability to overcome injuries to key players as well as any team in the NFL.

His name is Jerry Reese.

As the Giants tore up the Carolina Panthers 36-7 Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium, Reese, the Giants general manager, sat high above watching the team he put together turn what should have been a tough game into a laugher.

It's these kinds of games that show the importance of the football mind of a man like Reese, even if he won't dare hint at taking any of the credit. It's almost as if he runs from the spotlight.

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Reese could walk into a party in most New York spots and he'd probably have to introduce himself around.

Yet here was his genius on display for all to see Thursday night. With star receiver Hakeem Nicks and starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw both out with injuries, the Giants turned to Ramses Barden and Andre Brown to fill those roles.

Barden came into the game with no career starts in an injury-plagued four seasons and a grand total of 16 catches. He finished this game with nine catches for 138 yards and looked every bit like a guy who belonged on the field.

Brown, a Giants third-round pick in 2009, ruptured his Achilles tendon as a rookie, spent time with four other teams before returning to the Giants last year as a practice-squad player. All he did against the Panthers was rush for 113 yards on 20 carries and score two touchdowns.

So did Reese feel like a proud father?

"I am just happy for the kids," Reese said. "That's what's most important. They took advantage of their opportunity to help us win a game. We try to pride ourselves on having guys ready to play. Sometimes, you have to manufacture wins you're down some guys."

This Giants group, led by Reese, Coughlin and Manning, seems to relish doing things when people say they can't. Coughlin does his best coaching when he's an underdog. And Manning? Well, he seems to elevate his game when people are counting the Giants out.

Manning actually had a little chat with the offensive players Wednesday after the team's walk-through. It's something he does all the time, but this time the message was different.

He told guys like Brown and Barden and backup tackle William Beatty, who started for the injured David Diehl, that the other regular starters trusted them to do their jobs.

"It was not any big speech," Manning said.

But Coughlin made it out to be.

"He spoke before the game and said, 'Hey, the guys who are here can do the job,'" Coughlin said. "He puts a lot of confidence in the players that come along and have the opportunities and the chance to play."

The best thing about Brown and Barden after the game: They were far from satisfied.

"I still want more," Brown said. "I don't want this to stop."

Said Barden: "This is just the start."

The Giants won their two Super Bowls under Coughlin as underdogs, big ones in 2007 and lesser ones in 2011. They seem to always scrap and fight when some are counting them down or out.

It helps to have Manning as a calming influence. He completed 27 of 35 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown. The Giants rolled up 405 yards of offense to 327 yards for the Panthers. They also picked off Cam Newton three times, which is quite a feat since their top two corners from the summer were not starters.

"The mantra for the whole week was next man up," Barden said.

Coughlin was asked if he was surprised at how well the backups played. "I was real happy for them," he said. "I wasn't surprised."

That's because this organization has it nailed. While the team that shares their stadium might win the back-page battle, the Giants do it on the field, and in the coaching offices and in the general manager's suite.

This organization is run the right way.

It has a great general manger.

It has a future Hall of Fame coach.

It has a quarterback who no longer has to beg to be considered elite.

And it has the pass rush to knock down the other guys' quarterbacks.

But you can't win without having role players step in and make plays like Barden and Brown did. That takes a great mind in the front office to find them.

Jerry Reese is that and more. Ramses Barden and Andre Brown proved it again Thursday night.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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